Q: What is the purpose of The Linux Information Project?
A: The main purposes are (1) to promote an interest in and the use of Linux other free software and (2) to make such software easier to use by providing high quality, comprehensive and easily accessible documentation in a single location.
Q: When did this project begin?
A: It was officially launched in early 2004.
Q: Why should anything be done to promote Linux and other free software?
A: The use of free software can provide tremendous advantages to individuals, organizations and even entire economies and societies as compared with using just proprietary (i.e., commercial) software. However, many people either are not fully aware of these advantages or have a difficult time believing that software that is absolutely free can be as good as, or even better than, software that costs hundreds of dollars.
Q: A vast amount of information about Linux is already available in books and on the Web. So is LINFO really necessary?
A: There is indeed a tremendous amount of information available about Linux and related topics, and some of it is of very high quality. Unfortunately, however, a great deal of this information is not as easily accessible as it could be. For example, much of it is widely scattered; this is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, but it can consume much time and effort trying to find specific information, even with the best of search engines. Also, some of the material is not presented as clearly as might be desired, particularly for people who are not yet computer experts. Moreover, much of the best presentation of information is in expensive books, which are unavailable or unaffordable for a large part of the world's population.
The Linux Information Project has been developing a systematic approach to making specialized information easily understandable and as accessible as possible to the widest possible audience, ranging from people with little or no knowledge about the topic to experts.
Q: Could it be that this goal is too ambitious?
A: There is no doubt about it -- it is very ambitious. However, this is an important project because it is one of the major missing links in the overall scheme of helping free software fulfill its potential (including ease of use) and attain its goals of widespread appreciation and use.
Moreover, this has been an excellent time to develop such a project. This is because all doubt has been eliminated as to whether Linux is just a flash in the pan, and it is increasingly obvious that free software will become the software mainstream in the future. It is also because the surging interest in free software is creating a growing demand worldwide for high quality, easily accessible information about it.
Fortunately, a good start has already been made, and even if only a portion of the goal is eventually attained, the results could still be very useful.
Q: How far along is the project?
A: It has overcome a number of obstacles and setbacks, and is well advanced. This includes considerable refinement of the concept and method of implementation. It also includes the completion of more than 600 pages of original content, which are now available on the Web. Moreover, these pages have generally received some very positive feedback from users around the world.
However, this still represents only a fraction of the total amount of material that will be necessary to come anywhere near meeting the ultimate goal. Also, additional work will be required on many of the already completed pages, including updating and coordinating them with the newer pages as they become available.Q: Are all of the contents original?
A: Yes, almost all of them are unique to LINFO. The only exceptions are a few pages of reference material, such as the contents of software licenses or a section about copyrights from the U.S. Constitution.
Q: What is the licensing for the contents of the LINFO site?
A: The articles are copyrighted by The Linux Information Project and may be used in accordance with the fair use provisions of U.S. and international copyright law (i.e., making limited printed copies for personal or classroom use). Although the issue of licensing is being studied, the first priority has been to develop the content.
Q: Is advertising be accepted?
A: Conventional advertising, such as banner ads and pop-up ads, is not compatible with this site or its philosophy. However, non-obtrusive sponsorship and donations are enthusiastically welcomed.
Q: Why is the formatting of this site so spartan?
A: Spartan might not be quite the right word, just as the pages of ordinary printed books are not usually described as being spartan. A more appropriate phrasing might be the avoidance of unnecessary clutter. A major feature of the LINFO site is its elegant simplicity both visually and with regard to the structure of the site. This is done in order to eliminate unneeded distractions and maximize the usability of the extensive content.For example, the complete elimination of graphics helps force the text to be written as clearly as possible. This is particularly important for visually handicapped people and others who access Web content via text-to-audio converters.
In many parts of the world very old computers (with slow CPUs and small memories) are still in common use and Internet connections are sometimes slow or erratic. The elimination of images and the extremely simple page structure can significantly reduce bandwidth consumption and transmission times and speed up browser rendering. This can also facilitate access via cell phones, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and other handheld devices.
Most web sites have some (often random) colors and designs. However, LINFO adheres to the Unix philosophy that each tool should be kept as simple as possible and no extra functions should be added. That is, a tool should do one thing, and do it well. Each page on this site could be regarded as a tool for learning about some specific subtopic and one that is made as accessible and as useful as possible.
Q: Why the concern about eliminating images and minimizing bandwidth now that DSL and other high-speed connections have become commonplace?
A: Actually, high speed connections are common in only some countries. In much of the world, particularly many so-called developing countries, people often have difficulty getting access even to a low-speed dial-up connection.
For example, often the only access to the Internet for many people in rural areas in such countries is a single Internet cafe, for which there is only a single dial-up connection for the entire cafe! And that single connection might be slower and more erratic than is typical for dial-up service in other countries. Most people in the wealthier, highly industrialized countries are not aware of this situation.
Q: Why don't you have a built-in search capability? There is a tremendous amount of information on the site and it would be useful to be able to search the site for specific topics.
A:There are several other reasons. (1) One is that experience shows that built-in search mechanisms on many sites often provide less-than-desired results, such as large numbers of returns with little relevance. (2) Another is that an important goal of LINFO is to keep the site, including its underlying structure, as simple as possible and to maximize what can be accomplished with that simplicity. (3) Moreover, LINFO is already fully indexed by Google (with new pages being added within a few days), and complete searches of the site for people who like conventional search capabilities can thus be conducted by using Google's search engine. For more information, see How to Search LINFO With Google.
Q: How would I conduct a search for a specific topic on the LINFO site by using Google?
A: Enter the phrase in the Google search box site:bellevuelinux.org followed by a space and one or more keywords and then press the Search button or the RETURN key.
Q: Are there any additional techniques that are being used to maximize accessibility?
A: Yes, there are many. For example, all articles are written in standard American English and are carefully edited to make them as clear as possible. This makes difficult content easier to read and understand, particularly for people who are not yet experts on software and for people whose native language is not English (which is most of the world). Also, an attempt is made to craft each article so that it can be understandable and useful for a wide range of knowledge and skill levels. In addition, unlike many content-rich web sites but like most books, page margins are used consistently in order to facilitate the ease of reading. Moreover, navigation and the locating of information are designed to be extremely simple.
Q: Are technology topics other than computers covered?
A: Yes. However, in general, they must relate to Linux or other free software in some way. For example, some aspects of communications technology, of products in which Linux runs (e.g., industrial robots or handheld devices) and of applications of the free software development model to fields other than software will be covered. Articles about history, economics, philosophy, mathematics, linguistics and other subjects that are related to computers (and thus, ultimately, to Linux) are also included.
Q: Shouldn't the authors of each article should be listed on the page of the article?
A: The author is anonymous, so there is no point in listing it on each page.
Q: How successful is LINFO?
A: It has already become very successful by multiple measures, particularly considering the facts that it is still far from complete and that little has been done to publicize it. For example, it is visited by thousands of people around the world every day.
Q: Does the Bellevue Linux Users Group have other special projects?
A: Yes, the other main one is LINMO, which is a model for developing content-rich, primarily textual, web sites that combines the advantages of well-written books with the advantages of the Web. It was begun as a result of the substantial success of the LINFO site and is based on what has been learned from the development of that site.
Q: I would like to contribute to The Linux Information Project. What can I do to help?
A: There are two main things. One is editorial assistance. This involves reading articles carefully to find errors (of which there is no end) and to make suggestions for improvements. Errors and suggestions should be sent to info at linfo.org.
The other is to make a financial contribution. For information about how to do this, please visit the page How to Donate to LINFO.
Q: Can you accept articles for publication?
A: Articles are not being accepted for publication on the LINFO site at this time. However, Bellevue Linux Users Group will consider publishing articles on its web site (bellevuelinux.org) if they well written and require only minimal editing.
Created January 19, 2005. Updated December 30, 2006.